After The Dogfight: Reality Check On What Our Armed Forces Actually Need

The Indian Armed Forces fight with what they have but shouldn’t they get what they need?

The Indian Armed Forces fight with what they have but shouldn’t they get what they need? Losing our soldiers during a war-like situation or in terrorist encounters may be unavoidable and tragic but losing them due to the use of outdated equipment is uncalled for.

Feb 2019 was an anxious day for us Indians when we had learned that Wing Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman had been taken into custody by the Pakistani Army during a dogfight attack and fight in the air in his MIG-21 Bison, with an F-16 aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force following the Pulwama attack.

While he ejected safely once his aircraft was hit, he landed across the LOC and was captured by the Pakistani Army. Thankfully, after two days in captivity, Wing Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman was sent back home. I am not qualified enough to comment on any technical aspects of this entire incident.  From a civilian point of view, there has been one key learning for me out of this.

All the hard work behind the action

The nation has been in awe of the fighter jet pilot from what we have seen. The video of him being calm and composed in front of adversaries and the way he conducted himself captured the hearts of the entire nation.  We civilians will not know what it is like flying a fighter plane or the kind of training, skills and attitude it requires. We can maybe imagine it but never truly understand the intricacies of a dogfight or the complications of ejecting out of an aircraft or how an ejection from a fighter jet could affect your body.

It is believed that there are ample chances of a pilot suffering a compression fracture in the spine, in the aftermath of such an ejection. While he stood with a straight back and a stern face awaiting his return to his motherland, he probably was suffering excruciating pain due to the ejection. To be able to carry all this out successfully, one can only imagine the number of hours, days and months of training each of our IAF pilots undergo.

Engaging in a dogfight in the skies while flying at Mach speeds represents sheer grit and is awe inspiring.  We civilians will never get close to understanding all the preparations a pilot may undergo just so that he can withstand such a situation in his life, if and when it arises. The actors and actresses in the warfare movies make flying a fighter jet or boarding a military tank to shoot off the enemies look so easy. The viewers are filled with exhilaration at such scenes but all that goes behind getting to that moment of victory is a story less spoken about. This is not only about one Wing Cdr Abhinandan, but about all those soldiers who undergo years of training and some of them face adverse conditions and still stand tall, be it in the skies, on the seas or atop the mountains.

The true state of affairs that our Armed Forces face

Having the most well trained and skilled personnel is as important as having state of the art equipment and artillery and best of warfare techniques. Without qualified and well trained men at the helm the most modern equipment can fail. The key question here is, are we treating our men in uniform well? Ask them and they will say no in unison.

It is ironical that while the entire nation waited with bated breath for the return of a braveheart, there are many braveheart veterans protesting against the apathy of bureaucracy and policy makers for things like full implementation of One Rank One Pension and Non Functional Financial Upgradation (Something that is applicable to the IAS/IPS/ All CAPFs i.e. BSF, CRPF, CISF etc.) for the Armed Forces. As a matter of fact, during one such protest, elderly veterans were roughed up and even lathi charged at by the police. Do they really deserve this?

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On the one hand they have to fight the internal system to get what they rightfully deserve and on the other hand, they are expected to fight external aggression with vintage old equipment. It is reported that more than 65% of our war waging equipment including tanks, artillery guns and aircrafts are vintage ones. As Faye DSouza, Executive Editor of Mirror Now mentioned on her show, many cities have a rule of discarding old vehicles and here the Armed Forces has the task of protecting the country with these old aircraft!

The Indian Armed Forces fight with what they have but shouldn’t they get what they need? Losing our soldiers during a war-like situation or in terrorist encounters may be unavoidable and tragic but losing them due to the use of outdated equipment is uncalled for. Even before this face off between the two countries, we have been reading about crashes of a MIG during training etc and in some accidents, it is tragic that we lose a good pilot as well.

A respect that lasts forever, not momentary glory

Trending hashtags on social media and lighting candles is not enough. We shouldn’t have to wait for a crisis or our soldiers to die, for us to stand by them in solidarity. Our soldiers deserve and need unconditional respect. They are the custodians of our country and our Veterans don’t deserve to be forced to protest for getting their rights.

It may be heartening for a soldier when youngsters rush into a saloon for getting their moustaches styled like him. But he knows this is momentary, will last for a while and will be forgotten after the media glare is over.

I am not a representative of the Armed Forces, but just an ordinary citizen who can only write in appreciation and awe of the Armed Forces and try to garner more respect for them.

Here is an excerpt of a poem “Just a Common Soldier”, written by Lawrence Vaincourt which seems apt for the moment:

‘A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives

are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.

While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,

is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.

It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,

that the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know

it was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,

who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,

would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?

or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend

his home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,

but his presence should remind us we may need his like again.”

Though the soldiers of our nation have a LOT to complain about, yet they keep striving to perform their duties to the best of their capabilities.

I am proud of the Indian Armed Forces. More power to them, and let’s give them the respect and support they deserve.

Image via NDTV

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A homemaker, a freelance writer who loves to travel and has a passion for reading. Firmly believe that we all are a means to a purpose and that we should do whatever we can to read more...

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